Player Tribune – Erik Nissen

Dear New Brunswick,

My chapter of playing in your gyms is coming to a close and I have so much to thank you for. With this Saturday at UNB very realistically being my last game in New Brunswick, so many memories start to flood back to me; so many people I am thankful to and so many great memories growing up. To say that it was all perfect would be dishonest, but for everything we have gone through it has made me who I am, a proud New Brunswick basketball player.  I hope to take that competitiveness and passion for the game wherever my next gym may be.

To be honest, it probably wasn’t supposed to be like this. If it hadn’t been for the people who were in my corner growing up I’d probably be waddling around on skates. I started my career in basketball the same as anyone else in New Brunswick, in the minor associations.   For me, that was the KVBA. Though it may seem silly in hindsight, at a young age I had to choose between playing competitive basketball or hockey.  If it wasn’t for Peter Buckley of the KVBA taking a risk and picking me up from the younger age class to play competitive basketball, hockey may have stayed in the picture. The fact that it’s extremely hard to find size 15 skates may have been another good reason. 

If I had to pinpoint when basketball went from a hobby to a near obsession, it was that year of basketball. After that year I had started to age out of the KVBA and had my eyes set on Basketball New Brunswick. I remember going to tryout in Moncton for a program called CP.  I was vastly underaged at that point so I went for the open tryout day just for the experience of playing against bigger and better players, guys like Adam Spurrell and Richie Wilkins, who in my eyes, were the basketball elite.  I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get asked to stay for the weekend camp, so I didn’t even pack a bag.   Serge Langis took a risk and decided to take me for the camp. I had to go to Walmart to get some clothes so I wouldn’t be stinking up the gym on Day 3.

I have had the honour of being coached by people who relentlessly supported me and the opportunities that I got. The biggest influence on me as a basketball player, without a doubt, would be Paul Vaughan. I’ve spent countless hours practicing with him on weekends, late nights, or before school, trying to fix a broken jump shot (not quite fixed yet) and trying to make a kid with the middle school nickname “Bambi” have decent footwork. Any and all of the success that I’ve had as a player through the years I share with him. I’ll be eternally thankful for the mentorship and friendship I have with Paul. The list would be too long to mention all the great New Brunswick coaches that helped me develop over the years. I would be remiss to not mention the basketball IQ of Ryan Chase or the honesty and intensity of any of the three Hickey brothers helping me through the years I’ve spent either spent playing under them or coaching beside them.

I couldn’t tell you my journey without mentioning my parents.  I am not just talking about token sitting-in-the-stands-and-reading-the-newspaper parents, but parents who spent time after the game, talking about all the little things, helping me learn the game. I couldn’t be more thankful for them not only being fans in the stands but fanatics about my development as a person. They are completely consistent and predictable even to this day. My competitiveness I no doubt got from my Dad, Steve. Playing games of H.O.R.S.E., 1 on 1, or just there to rebound for me after countless shots at the end of the driveway. I will always love my Mother, Monica, for pushing me to be a better person on and off the court. She, to this day, holds me to a high standard of being, although I definitely struggle with this one from time to time!  She is always there with a warm heart and open arms for me at the end of the day.  Without a doubt, they inspired me to push my limits and were there to motivate me every step of the way.  It was a family affair and my sister has spent more time than she would have probably liked in the car or gyms for my love of basketball.

I have to mention the fans of basketball in New Brunswick. Coming into my final game in my home province, it’s amazing to see how far the game that I love so dearly has grown. There’s an energy about basketball that I can see now that wasn’t there all too long ago. The amount of high-level basketball that is available to the current basketball fan and young players in New Brunswick is phenomenal. We have professional basketball teams in Moncton and Saint John and high-level U SPORTS basketball in Fredericton. Young ball players can have tangible role models in their city to look up to.  For me, being able to go to a camp, or later, shoot around with the Mill Rats (now Riptide) made playing high-level basketball seem real.  It all feeds growth and now NB has players that have played NCAA Division 1 basketball and our provincial basketball teams are competing for medals at Nationals. The options for developing young talent in New Brunswick are at an all-time high. To me, this has all become possible because of the dedication of BNB and the fans of the game. New Brunswick is becoming a basketball province and I LOVE it.

My basketball journey has not always been a straight line.  There are always high points, like playing in the FISU games or a full gym of fans at Acadia, and low ones too, like lost championships or disappointments to deal with.  I take it all with me and hope that no matter what gym I am in I can make NB proud.

Thank you, New Brunswick.

Erik Nissen